Research Paper: German Imperial Colonialism

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German Imperial Colonialism and the Holocaust

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Germany was focused on becoming a rival world power. This is because it was always striving to match the influence of many of the other European powers (most notably: Britain, France and Spain). These ambitions have deep historical roots. That date back to the very beginning of Germany after the fall of the Roman Empire. This is when Germany was a divided region and ruled by different tribes. They were united under Charlemagne (via the Frankish empire). This was the first time, the area known as modern day Germany was integrated as a single nation state. [footnoteRef:1] [1: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 1-30]

The Frankish empire did not last after the death of Charlemagne. This is when different regions of influence were divided among his descendents. In 962 AD, Otto I was able to unite these areas together under the Holly Roman Empire. The idea was to consolidate power through a single government. This increased economic prosperity and it allowed the country flourish by effectively eliminating trade restrictions and promoting stability. The hope was that the Holly Roman Empire could rival the accomplishments of ancient Rome. [footnoteRef:2] [2: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 1-30]

However, the Protestant Reformation and increasing power of the nobility meant that the country was becoming divided. This took place with the Northern parts of Germany embracing the Protestant ideology. While the Southern regions of the country, remained Catholic and did not plan to change. At the same time, aristocracy began to take power away from the central government. Instead, they controlled different functions that were performed by this entity themselves through reverting back to a feudal system. This occurred during the Thirty Years War with the Holly Roman Empire effectively divided into two. [footnoteRef:3] [3: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 31-68]

The result is that a series of city states would emerge between the 17th and 19th centuries. Most notably: Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony. At the same time, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars meant that the region would be conquered and occupied by France. This was the part of a larger European empire Napoleon was creating. [footnoteRef:4] [4: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 31-68]

The impact this would have on the German people is: they felt unstable, a lack of control and there was no central authority they could identify with. Instead, they were relegated as a pawn that was passed from one European power to the next. This angered many who felt that Germany could be a powerful nation. If it could unite and focus on core ideas that would build the nation (i.e. pride, unity and creating a new kind of country). [footnoteRef:5] [5: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 31-68]

During the 19th century, Prussia became the most dominate of the city states and began to consolidate its gains with a central government located in Berlin. This and the Industrial Revolution transformed German society. It helped to modernize the country and changed life with more cities growing exponentially. These transformations led to the complete unification of Germany in 1871 with Wilhelm I becoming the emperor (i.e. Kaiser). [footnoteRef:6] [6: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 101-147]

To live up to these new ambitions, Germany began to seek out ways to build its control of power and resources. In 1885, all of the other European powers and Germany began to make claims to various parts of Africa. The basic idea is they wanted to prevent Arabs from dominating the region in order to control more of its natural resources. The Berlin Conference was designed to effectively divide the continent up into spheres of influence. Germany was given small parts of Africa as a part of the agreement. The most notable include: Rwanda, Namibia, Burundi, Botswana, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Somalia, Togo, Ghana and sections of Cameroon. [footnoteRef:7] [7: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 147-191]

In a number of cases, local African officials signed protection contracts with Germany. This enabled them to offer added amounts of protection to select tribes in exchange for access to various natural resources. However, there were also instances when tribes did not sign these accords and refused to accept the Germans dominating a particular area. In these situations, wars developed with Germany utilizing brutality to exert control. [footnoteRef:8] [8: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 147-191]

A good example of this can be seen with the Herero natives in Namibia. They became enraged at how German settlers and soldiers were randomly killing people. In 1904, they revolted against German authority as part of an effort to force them out. They were defeated in the Battle of Hamakari by General Lothar von Trotha. During the final pursuit, 6 thousand Herero's were chased into the Sarah. This is when they were isolated and executed. The campaign marked the first time when genocide was used to effectively cut off, starve and kill an entire population group. [footnoteRef:9] [9: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 147-191]

In aftermath, the Germans made native Africans their slaves. Evidence of this can be seen with observations in a report from the British Foreign Office which said, "In view of the cruelty, treachery and commercialization by which German colonial authorities have gradually reduced their natives to the status of cattle. The Herero's were butchered by the thousands during the war and have been ruthlessly flogged into subservice since." [footnoteRef:10] This is showing the brutality and the way this influenced German thinking. As they did not care about what happened to the people inside these areas or what other nations thought about their tactics. The experiences created the perceptions of German invincibility by defeating various uprisings and maintaining control. [footnoteRef:11] [10: Jeremy Hughes, Germany's Genocide (Woodbridge: Boynton and Brewer, 2011), 31] [11: Jeremy Hughes, Germany's Genocide (Woodbridge: Boynton and Brewer, 2011), 7-36]

These attitudes of imperialism led to Germany supporting Austria Hungary during World War I. After it was over, Germany was effectively stripped of its African colonies and punished for its involvement in starting the hostilities of the 1914 (via the Treaty of Versailles). This is when the world powers were staring down each other and Germany escalated the situation by supporting acts of aggression through their ally. [footnoteRef:12] [12: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 191-277]

In the aftermath, many Germans felt as if they were insulated based upon how they were treated by the victors. To make matters worse, the stripping of its colonies only added to this sense of anger and helplessness. These opinions contributed to the rise of Adolph Hitler. He was able to tap into these emotions and directly link them with Germany's territorial / political ambitions. [footnoteRef:13] [13: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 191-277]

However, the experiences that Germans learned in Africa shaped how they would deal with conquered territories and the Jews during World War II. To fully understand the way German colonial experiences are linked with Adolph Hitler (i.e. The Nazis) requires carefully examining how this influenced their thinking. This will be accomplished by focusing on the policies, practices and what tactics were utilized in achieving their objectives. Together, these elements will highlight how these colonial experiences shaped the policies in their occupied territories during World War II. [footnoteRef:14] [14: Hagan Schulze, Germany (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 1-30]

The Connection between the German Colonial Experience and their Influence on Nazi Germany's Attempt to Colonize Eastern Europe During World War II

Racism was one the policies the European powers used to divide and conquer different regions of the world. The British were known for doing this inside areas such as India with the caste system. This effectively delegated various groups of people to specific segments of society based upon their racial or ethnic group. While those who were from another class; were considered to be superior to those individuals underneath them. As the lower groups are expected to be subservient to them at all times. This means that any kind of abuses committed against these segments of society are often overlooked as the end justifies the means. Colonialism took these basic ideas and accelerated them by determining who will control various natural resources and areas. The way these objectives were achieved was to use brutality and division to keep the population subservient to the Europeans.[footnoteRef:15] [15: Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Bergbabn Books, 1951), 22-29]

All of the major powers took these views to the next level, by restricting the kinds of activities colonists could be associated with when it came to local inhabitants. The Germans were the most controlling through limiting movement, marriage and instilling negative beliefs about specific racial groups within society. According to Arendt (1951), these opinions became common and influenced the policy decisions of colonial authorities with her saying, "Despite the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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German Imperial Colonialism.  (2013, November 27).  Retrieved June 26, 2019, from

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"German Imperial Colonialism."  27 November 2013.  Web.  26 June 2019. <>.

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"German Imperial Colonialism."  November 27, 2013.  Accessed June 26, 2019.